Product, Service & Design Innovation
7 Tips for Creating Social Value by Empowering Young People

As we prepare to unveil the Top 25 Under 25 year-olds working in sustainable business as part of the 2degrees New Generation initiative later this year, the latest Sustainable Brands London event offered the perfect opportunity to discuss how a number of organizations are creating social value by inspiring, enabling and mobilizing young people.

In a session bringing together a number of organizations that have had success in engaging the so-called Millennial generation, 2degrees CEO Martin Chilcott set the context to the challenge. Nodding towards Jochen Zeitz and John Elkington’s ‘10 ways to connect today’s profits with tomorrow’s bottom line’ (as set out in their new book, The Breakthrough Challenge), he told delegates, “engaging this new generation is going to be absolutely key.”

On the panel to give some practical advice was Bella Vuillermoz from Sky, the UK and Ireland home entertainment and communications business. Bella is director of Sky Academy — Sky’s initiative to provide inspiration and opportunities that help one million young people build skills, experience and self-belief — through which the company continues to create real social value by offer youngsters the tools they need to reach their potential.

Alongside Bella were: Stephen Greene, CEO of RockCorps (giving millions of young music fans the chance to earn gig tickets by volunteering); Will Gardner, CEO of Collectively (the newly launched online magazine designed to normalize sustainability through great content); and Ben Whitehead from Cospa (which works with the likes of Wickes to create social action projects across communities).

So, how do these organizations create value and engage young people? Here are the key takeaways prompted by the tips and advice given by the panel:

1. Make sure your brand purpose is front and center

Sky Academy was created as a result of futures work Sky carried out with Forum for the Future. “We’re leveraging our brand purpose, which is all about inspiring, entertaining and informing — as well as our ethos, ‘Believe in Better’ — and our strengths to create positive social outcomes through Sky Academy.”

2. Engage young people in something that excites them

“We have a brand that resonates with young people because of our programming,” said Bella. “Young people are willing to get involved in something like Sky Academy’s Sky Sports Living for Sport — our free secondary schools initiative that uses sport stars and sport skills to boost confidence and get more people interested in sport — because it is fun and it plays into our brand.”

3. Focus on social outcomes

Bella’s core advice is: As well as measuring the social outcomes, measure the value and outcome for your brand. “There is clear evidence that Sky Academy is positively impacting our brand. We do a quarterly tracker with 2,000 consumers to understand both the awareness of Sky Academy and how much more favorable people are towards Sky as a result of its existence.”

4. Have fun

“If you’re not having fun, how do you expect to make it fun for anybody else?” asked Stephen Green from RockCorps. It’s a feeling shared by Gardner, who points to the Facebook phenomenon of ‘I F***ing Love Science’ and its 18 million followers as evidence. “For decades, people have been trying to make science fun and interesting. By combining some serious science with some wonderfully bizarre and trivial content — such as a student explaining string theory to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody – it really brings people into the subject. I love it.”

5. Find the right partners

For RockCorps, partnerships have been key to its success. Whether that is brands (whose sponsorship it relies on), NGOs (who know what’s happening on the ground and offer the 4-hour volunteer opportunity that allows youngsters to grab tickets for star-filled concerts) or the media (who help bring the whole thing together) — “seek out those partnerships that really work”.

6. Build in a feedback loop

Whatever it is you are trying to engage young people in, give them feedback, says Will. “The great thing about young people is that they want to move to do something as quick as possible, rather than just consume. Once you have a bunch of people that have done something, you need to give them the sense that they have achieved something.” He points to the petition signed by 318,000 people in support of the LGBT community in the run up to the recent Winter Olympics in Russia — and videos and content that was created and fed back to those that got involved as proof that their actions had an impact.

7. Incentivize and reward

Ben Whitehead from Cospa pointed to the ‘what’s in it for me?’ barrier. “You have to help young people see the benefit of getting involved.” For Stephen it is about tapping into a “universal truth”. “The more you put it, the more you get back. That’s true of families, communities and in the workplace. And that is the juice under everything we do at RockCorps.”

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